So I am going to Taiwan to study Chinese and the program told me that if I do not pick myself a Chinese name, the teacher will pick (an apparently random) one. And so from what I see the general rule of thumb is to pick an approximate translation of one's birth name. The following was suggested to me by a friend. LN 荀;FN 湖贤。 I just wanted a second opinion. I think they suggested that name because (a) I do have lake in my original name (which is in a Slavic language), (b) having studied Chinese history, I identify with 荀子 rather than 孔子,孟子,老子,or 墨子。And I really don't like 法家. Where 賢 came from idk and it's kinda difficult to spell.

Let me know if it looks fine. I am not too concerned, just didn't want a random one from a teacher who does not know me.


  • A name should be easy to pronounce, write, and easily remembered. You can choose one that is close to the pronunciation of your original name, then select the words carefully to make it meaningful.
    – r13
    Feb 4, 2023 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


my advice: “荀淵歸”

if you identified with 荀子, keep “荀” as your chinese surname.

then, interpret “lake” to “淵” u+6df5, roughly means “deep pool”

therefore, the 2nd paragraph of chapter 致士 of 荀子, there’s text:


pick the “歸” to prefix your name 😸

these 4 verses roughly mean:


[if the living environment is good; such as] water is deep, aquatic animals will move to, forest is lush, animals will move to.


[if a ruler is] fair in criminal administration, laymen will emigrate to [his region],


[if a ruler has] rite and morality, noblemen will also emigrate to [his region]

when someone ask the meaning, just say “it’s quoted from the your favourite book 荀子” 🙀

if your chinese is competence, explain the virtue of your name 😸

have fun :)

  • 非常谢谢! I'll probably go with this then, or at least with some version of it. It's a good book of 荀子 too.
    – Schumann
    Feb 4, 2023 at 21:20
  • @Schumann, may i ask, just curious, why you’re interested in chinese philosophy? Feb 4, 2023 at 23:55
  • Several reasons. I am fairly familiar with Western philosophy, and it's interesting to make parallels between, say, 墨家 and Locke/Russeau, but particularly between 商鞅 and Hobbes' Leviathan, a.k.a 利维坦. I lost interest when Christianity is introduced and takes a salient place, however, -- whether it's Tudors time in England or 元朝 rule in China。That being said, 贤 in the name discussed above also might have something to do with the gentleman by the name of 董贤。That part of history/philosophy is also quite interesting , partly in comparison with the western or Slavic tradition.
    – Schumann
    Feb 6, 2023 at 0:33
  • @Schumann, i see, my salute 😸 Feb 6, 2023 at 1:17

I want to start by saying translating your non chinese name is not the standard, and that translating your non chinese name is not bad in any way, if you can make it work.

The standard is one of two things:

to choose a native chinese name you like (can have as much or as little relation to your non chinese name as you like. Think of someone named zbigniew who chose the name john for convenience)

to have your non chinese name transliterated into chinese-- not a translation, but trying to pronounce the closest reasonable. (No meaning is implied here. Think of someone named chen lee in english. what you say definitely isn't even close to native chinese pronunciation, but it is the closest english can reasonably get)

Now for the name you chose: 荀 is a totally normal surname, great. 湖賢 seems just fine to me although not common (maybe more common in taiwan). Note that chinese names are not usually read by meaning actively. Compare to how a name like ashley has a meaning, but no one is thinking about it when talking to an ashley. For fun, a meaning could be something like "lake, virtuous"

As for any other impressions the name may have, perhaps a native could chime in. Those feelings are very intuitive and usually vary person to person anyway.

Whatever the name you choose, don't feel completely pressured. I originally chose the name 古明, mainly because I already understood the characters, and it was easy to write haha. Later, when I knew more, I changed my chinese name to 牧孝強。 The family name has the same meaning as my non chinese family name (also slavic) and the given name is one I think my parents may have given me-- in an alternate world where they were chinese.

By the way, 湖賢 may seem complicated just starting, but all the components are quick and easy to write. Once you are more used to chinese this name will be no hassle

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